SHORTER Sermons = More Effective Sermons: 10 Tips

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Few people can preach longer than 30 minutes without losing their audience.

One of the greatest opportunities I’ve had in life was working at Fellowship Church and being a member of the creative team that helped Pastor Ed Young plan creative messages. I remember hearing Ed often say he never preached a 25-minute sermon he didn’t like. I agree.

The reality is, there are few people who can preach longer than 30 minutes without losing their audience. A good philosophy is to leave them wanting more, not wanting to get out!

Here are 10 tips for creating shorter and more effective messages:

1. Cut Your Introduction. 

Don’t spend so much time trying to set things up. Get in and get out by avoiding too much detail and long stories. A good idea is to shoot for a three-minute introduction.

2. Minimize Lists. 

Long lists of examples can add length, especially if you comment on each one. Try combining similar points and using these examples in a sentence rather than a list.

3. Stick to the Point. 

Define what the main thing is you want people to walk away with and stick to this thought. Cut information that is not relevant to this idea. Remember, you can always use it later!

4. Plan the Landing. 

Know how you want to land the plane and don’t ramble at the end of your message. Focus on one main challenge/thought, develop a power statement, or perhaps refer back to your introduction by stating how the problem can be solved.

Troy Page Troy Page is the Worship Arts Pastor at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia and is also a ministry consultant with TonyMorganLive.com. For over 15 years Troy has served on the senior leadership teams of Fellowship Church (Dallas/Fort Worth) and West Ridge Church. He has played a variety of pastoral leadership roles including Single Adult Ministry, Spiritual Development, Missions, Creative Arts, Communications and Marketing. He has also served as a lead teacher communicating with audiences of 20,000+ people.

More from Troy Page or visit Troy at http://troypage.com

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  • Matthew

    Thanks. Here are some useful points on preaching. Worth a few read throughs

  • alhatesreligion

    Great points-we too often want to share way too much info on Sunday morning-we can transfer that that to a class during the week.

  • Dalia

    Remember when Paul Preached throughout the night and young eyticus fell out the window? I don’t mind long sermons. I don’t like the attitude of get in, eat the spiritual food, and get out so I can live my life, not yours God. That’s why Christianity is suffering. It’s too much about our felt needs and not God’s desires. But you live the way you want. With me…all is right with my soul.

    • Brian

      If most of the people listening to that “sermon” were like Eyticus, then Paul was basically preaching to himself. And just because the Bible makes reference to this incident, doesn’t mean the Bible gives credence to that philosophy! We can learn from people’s mistakes as well….even the apsotle Paul. Didn’t he have a serious breakup with Barnabus in Acts as well? I don’t think that can be used to condone church splits!
      Reality is, most people only are able to absorb a small amount of material before they go into overload. Especially young Christians new to the faith. Mature believers should get the majority of their “food” from places other than Sunday mornings. New Christians shouldn’t be forced to sit through an hour of teaching that makes almost no sense to them so more “mature” believers can be fed as well….

  • Stephen Willcox

    I agree with Troy on some of the points being made. Although I don’t agree with the source of a problem being the length of a message. The source of the problem is preachers not knowing how much time is needed to communicate the thought they want to communicate and how effective they are in doing it.
    I often see pastors bragging about how long it took them to get through a book and cringe at the level of pride in their knowledge. But I also cringe when I hear Pastors seeking to only meet sheep where they are at and not seek to stretch them to maturity. Preaching a long message doesn’t make it more Biblical nor does a short sermon make it sweet.

    I believe the issue is acknowledging our abilities and being honest with how much time it will take us to effectively communicate that idea and being ok it only takes 20 minutes to communicate. At the same time I have heard sermons that went on for 90 minutes and was on the edge of my seat lapping up the sweet communion with God as I heard Jesus calling me his sheep as the Pastor expounded the text. Each pastor has different gifting and he ought to be humble and honest with his evaluation of that.

    Lastly, if people can sit in their chair for 3 hrs and truly take in a message with delight and pay money to see it in a movie theatre then we shouldn’t be shocked if a preacher has the gifting to engage an audience to teach them a marvelous message of the Messiah and what He has done for us at the cross for longer than an hour. Because time isn’t the issue, importance of the message, gifting and amount of crucial information needed to accurately and powerfully communicate that message is.

  • Deana Callins

    Walk In LOve….
    Colossians 4:5-6 Walk (in) Wisdom “toward them” that are without, Redeeming the Time. Let (your) speech BE Always with Grace (Love & Mercy), seasoned (with) salt, That (you) may Know How (you) ouht To Answer every man.
    What is pleasing to the Lord!

  • kingMEdia

    One point message. One story. One theme. One idea. I like it.

  • Johnny

    Great word! Thank you!

  • GymeeeChoos

    I’m not being critical. I did find it funny that it was suggested to do a 1 point sermon in a 10 point article ( – :

    • Kevin L. Neal

      I was thinking the same thing.

      • Joe Rhoads

        Don’t forget minimize lists. 10 items is a lot.

    • Ernest Wamboye

      LOL! You’re funny :-) However i think the writer’s article has one point- Preach good sermons

  • JJH

    Great practical advice. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hank

    Good stuff. I like to practice my sermons out loud. It’s amazing how many times I have had to stop myself and say “Boy, that is not coming out right. Gotta change that.” lol Also, I find that it is my stories and props that can push a sermon to 45 minutes, but if done right, the audience gets the main ideas and stays with it the whole time. I have to work on this though because I have been guilty of focusing on a sub-point of a sub-point because I really liked the illustration. I’m a youth pastor so I only preach on Sunday’s once in a while so I have to make sure I don’t share too much, but focus on the main thing. Thanks for the article!

  • Bob Wise

    To me, the major problem with the majority of preachers is they are not called of God but are just doing a job. Ask around and you will be surprised how many preachers admit they “got into” the ministry because of: example, dad was one, somebody told them they should think about being a preacher, felt like it would be a good vocation, etc. IF God Himself did not call you to the Ministry, then you will always be debating on these types of things. IF God Himself did call you to the Ministry, you can walk in cold and God will direct your thoughts without “practice” critiquing it first”, etc.

    • ML Preacher

      If God called you into ministry and you don’t honor God by honing and prayerfully, intentionally crafting the teaching God gives, you dishonor God and the call. Striving to improve, to grow, to preach the word clearly honors God. Claiming that IF God called you you can wing it is a conceit bordering on arrogance. There may be some that can wing it, but those teachings are too often slipshod, sometimes rambling, sometimes repetitive, aimless Bible based rants delivered with enthusiasm and little clarity. God will direct the thoughts
      when His guidance is faithfully sought, whether it is sought through prayerful prep, or walking in cold.

  • JesseWSellers

    It is amazing that preaching has become so marginalized. These days, a preacher is considered long-winded if he preaches more than 22 minutes. Then we wonder why God’s people in evangelical churches are so Biblically and spiritually anemic! The Bible is clear that we are to make the Word of God central in our worship services. We should sing the Word, pray the Word, Preach the Word, Read the Word, and Show the Word (through the sacraments/ordinances).
    Mark Dever tells the story of a visit to an English cathedral and noticing the long poles with circular ends by the side of the pulpit. When a lady in his tour group asked the guide what it was, the tour guide explained that it was to hold the pastor’s hourglass. The congregation would generally give the pastor two or three turns of the hourglass. “My goodness!” the lady exclaimed, “that wouldn’t leave hardly any time for worship!”

    Dever gently reminded the lady that there were probably people in the congregation who could recall the smell of burning flesh from martyrs who dared to proclaim the Word of God, and said, “Madam, I don’t think they would have minded.”
    Rather than advocating shorter sermons, I think we should be pushing for God’s people to cry for longer, deeper, stronger, and more powerful sermons.Yes, we should cut the length of the introductions, and limit illustrations–and invest more time in expounding the Word of God to our listeners.

    Shorter sermons do NOT result in more effective preaching–they result in more defective Christians!

  • Webby Oglesby

    Okay…good stuff. Preach The Word!! When in India, I’ve witnessed 3 hour worship, two preachers….music, Lord’s Supper, long prayer times! It’s not length…although length matters…the delivery is crucial…the crafting is paramount…preparation is a time of inspiration…there is a joy that a preacher should experience when preaching God’s Life-Changing Word. Short can be great…if content is precise and deep….long can be good if the preacher is effectively expressing Truth with passion! I love to preach…It’s humbling, exciting, and very challenging…to preach is to move with trembling feet! It’s God’s Word!! However long the sermon…preach it with an energy that calls someone to know Jesus!! Expound so that God is honored! Oh, what time did Paul begin his sermon? We don’t know! The text lends itself to Paul preaching a long message. I have rambled on for a long time….see, we preachers?????

  • Mike

    Less is more, but how much less is subjective and must be spiritual. The Spirit of God leading us trumps advice given to us. Thanks for the thought provoking article!

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